Amnesty criticizes clampdown on critics in Sri Lanka

AP, COLOMBO, Sri Lanka

Wed, May 01, 2013 - Page 6

The Sri Lankan government is intensifying a crackdown on critics by sanctioning abuses often committed by security forces or their proxies, Amnesty International said yesterday.

Journalists, the judiciary, human rights activists and opposition politicians are among those targeted in a pattern of threats, harassment, imprisonment and violent attacks, the report said.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government promotes an official attitude that equates opposition with treason, the human rights group said.

“Violent repression of dissent and the consolidation of political power go hand in hand in Sri Lanka,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Asia-Pacific region, in the statement accompanying the report.

The Sri Lankan government gave no immediate comment on the report, but it has previously rejected similar accusations.

“There is a real climate of fear in Sri Lanka, with those brave enough to speak out against the government often having to suffer badly for it,” Truscott said.

Amnesty says the government started consolidating power immediately after the military defeated the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, ending a prolonged civil war in 2009. A constitutional amendment pushed through by Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition in 2010 boosted the president’s control over the judiciary, police and elections officials, while eliminating term limits for the presidency.

At the same time, government critics have been harassed, attacked and sometimes killed, Amnesty said, detailing dozens of such cases, both before and after 2009.